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tv   [untitled]    February 26, 2012 12:00am-12:30am EST

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anticipates as a last resort at least. meanwhile, he believes he can outlast the union will. lee is less sanguine about that because he has a better opinion of the union will. those people, as he called his enemies, those people are not going to quit. we're going to have to defeat them, destroy them if you will. and it is lee who plots that destruction, and lee believes also that all of this has to happen sooner rather than later. because as time goes on, the enemy is going to get stronger. he can look at this -- lee can look at the census and knows it as well as anybody. they have more people! they have more resources! unless we get -- and we can't
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count on foreign intervention. lee says that. and that being the case, god as usual is going to be on the side of the larger battalion. that's not lee's phrase, but i think napoleon said it. but i associate it with t. harry williams in any event. unless we reverse the way the world works, the stronger side is going to win the war. and so lee set about trying to reverse the way the world works. to be the stronger side in where it counted to destroy an enemy army. so, in the wake of the seven pines, lee comes to command. now, realize robert e. lee in
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the mexican war where he is the finest soldier scott ever saw on the field really didn't have a command. he was on scott's staff. lee has never commanded anything more than two companies of marines at harper's ferry on act 16th, 1859, when they stormed the fire engine house and captured five rebels commanded by john brown. harper's ferry, 1859. now, maybe commanding two companies of marines is all you need. the marines contend that way anyway. but here is lee confronting 105,000 yankees who are in the suburbs of richmond. and what did he do?
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he set his men to work digging trenches, field fortifications. and so this man who had been called granny lee, the overcautious, is now known as the king of spades because all he wants to do is have these trained killers, these warriors, dig ditches with shovels with picks and things and that's not much fun. but that's what soldiers do! and lee points that out. what he wants to do and what he did was to hold richmond with 25,000 troops, fall upon mcclellan's flank which he discovered was exposed by way of stewart's dramatic ride around mcclellan, the raid in june 12-15, 12th through the 15th of
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1862. and he's going to fall upon mcclellan's flank with 45,000 troops. and then he's going to bring jackson in from the valley with 20,000 more to attack mcclellan's rear. here is this guy, 200 soldiers at harper's ferry and now he's commanding, add all that up. 25,000, 47,000, 20,000, 92,000 people. and, by god, it worked, from a limited perspective anyway. mcclellan was halted, embarrassed and overrun, at least on his flank at gaines mill and lost his nerve and called for a change of base,
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which sounded like a skedaddle. a withdrawal to the james river, and lee followed. in his general order, he wrote on thursday, june 26th, the powerful and thoroughly equipped army of the enemy was entrenched in works vast and extent and most formidable in character within the sight of our capital. today the remains of that confident and threatening host lie upon the banks of the james river, 30 miles -- that's a little bit -- more like 23, i think. 30 miles from richmond, seeking to recover under the protection of its gunboats from the effects
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of the series of disastrous defeats. that's a little hyperbole. about his campaign, he wrote to mary lee, his wife, our success has not been as great or complete as i could have desired. and in his official report to the government lee stated, under ordinary circumstances the federal army should have been destroyed. that's what he was after. well, at that point the union called upon john pope to command something called the army of virginia up -- back up at manassas. and with the combination of new troops and mcclellan's troops, lee sent jackson with one wing of his army to occupy pope and with longstreet and another wing fell upon him and maybe this was lee's greatest battle, second manassas. almost destroyed pope.
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this was august 30th, 1862. at that point lee confessed. the army is not properly equipped for an invasion of the enemy's territory. it lacks much of the material of war, is feeble in transportation, the animals being much reduced and the men poorly provided with clothes and in thousands of instances, destitute of shoes. still, we cannot afford to be idle. and though weaker than our opponents in men and material and military equipment, we must endeavor to harass if we cannot make our success -- our complete success is not impossible and we shall endeavor to guard from law. so, he's going to maryland. he writes to davis, and this is lee's relationship. he writes to davis all the time. i will keep you informed.
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i will keep you informed. and lee and davis -- davis thinks that he and lee are in perfect harmony, when in reality lee is pushing the envelope, deceiving davis, trying to do more than davis would wish to do, risk more than davis wants to risk. because lee believes the army has to win now, before the enemy gets stronger and stronger. so, he goes to maryland. he loses order 191. mcclellan has the perfect opportunity. but does not follow-up. and lee fought at sharpsburg or antietam.
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we will make our stand on those hills, he said. some troops as they approach the position. hindsight if nothing else compels the question why. why did lee decide to stand and fight an enemy he knew would have many more guns and many more men and guns than the army of northern virginia, and he has the potomac river at his back and only one fort over the river in the event he needed a route of escape, and that fort was on his extreme right flank. any answer must depend upon conjecture. maybe lee believed that he would have to fight mcclellan somewhere and soon and so he chose to fight here and now. maybe he was afraid his army would only grow weaker from lack of rations and an increase of straggling if he attempted to maneuver more. and so elected to fight before his strength eroded still further. maybe lee believed that his defensive position would be
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sufficiently strong to achieve a malverne hill in reverse, that is, let the enemy beat himself to pieces attacking me. let the federals bleed themselves to death attacking him this time. maybe he was anticipating fredericksburg when they, in fact, did. lee, more than anyone, knew the costs of offensive operations in this war, programs the stand at sharpsburg was perhaps his chance to pursue an offensive war by means of defensive tactics. whatever lee thought about this, one conclusion was pretty obvious, he believed he could win. he didn't lose at sharpsburg. it was a bloody draw, and barely so. now, i know that jim mcpherson contends and -- contends nobly
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and righteously that sharpsburg, antietam was a significant turning point in this war, that this was the point at which the war was destined for union victory. bob crick insists, who is not with us -- he's now watching virginia v. north carolina in basketball. bob crick insists the army of north virginia stood its ground in the face of vastly superior numbers and that this was the dumbest thing that anybody -- and robert e. lee included -- could ever have done. i think he stayed put on the 17th because he thought he could win. he thought he could fight mcclellan on the defensive. whatever.
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he stayed put on the 18th all but daring mcclellan to renew the offensive. and then finally, barely, was able to get across butler's ford and back across the potomac into virginia. and then, of course, he fought on december 13th at fredericksburg. the plain between fredericksburg and crossed a significant drainage ditch, then the attacking ranks had to cross more open ground to confront a sunken road which formed a perfect four-foot trench for confederate infantry. behind the sunken road, marie's height rose precipitously studded with artillery and more infantry. the assault disintegrated into murder. lee saw the enemy founder and saw his own men leap from their cover and chase their fleeing foes.
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it is well that war is so terrible he said we should grow too fond of it. again and again the federals charged and each time they died and recoiled. general, lee said to longstreet, who was by his side, they are massing very heavily and will break your line, i'm afraid. general, longstreet responded, if you put every man now on the other side of the potomac on that field to approach me over the same line and give me plenty of ammunition, i will kill them all before they reach me. and he did. this is what lee did in 1862. he wrote in what would qualify as a christmas letter to his wife, mary, but what a cruel thing is war to separate and
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destroy families and friends and mar the purist joy and happiness god has granted us in this world. to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world. i pray that on this day when peace and goodwill are preached to all mankind, that better thoughts will fill our hearts, fill the hearts of our enemy and turn them to peace. the confusion that now exists in their council will thus result in good. we all know that somebody who we all thought would get nominated today proclaimed emancipation, preliminarily -- in a preliminary fashion. on september 22nd, 1862, and
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just passed our -- or john koskie's deadline january 1 the action document that proclaimed slaves in rebel hands are now free, and we will accept african-americans in the united states army. we all know that lincoln did that. but as lincoln passed and the new year approached, lincoln made good on his promise. but before and after lincoln's stroke, lee had professed his abhorrence of slavery. as we know ever in the abstract and always conditioned by his conviction that his racial assumptions, racist assumptions really, that african-americans occupied some evolutionary level below that of white people, but
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in this instance irony attends the fact that lee himself became an emancipator and issued his own liberating proclamation three days before lincoln in 1862. the objects of lincoln's -- of lee's proclamation were the slaves once owned by george washington park custsa who was lee's father-in-law. in accord with his father-in-law's will, january 9th, 1862, lee the executor of the estate did, quote, emancipate and forever set free from slavery, unquote, the slaves at arlington, the white house plantation, which was one on the york river, and
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romancote, which is in king william county on the monkey river, as well as the slaves that lee had hired out in other places, that is, rented out, as well as the relative few slaves that lee had owned and had as hired out in the estate of park custus. lee's deed of emancipationlile listed each person by name, and lee was very, very careful to get all those names right, at least 170 people. and he meticulous searched his memory and record and queried others in the family to make sure he missed no one. he was a limited emancipator. the custus will established a five-year time period within which his executor had to act to free his slaves. he technically extended that period for a couple of months
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because custus died in october of 1857. and if you do the math, october of 1862 is the cutoff date, and lee was a couple of months late, this is december. like lincoln, who emancenated only slaves in rebel regions over which he had no immediate control, lee freed many slaves over which he had no control. most of the arlington slaves, for example, were already free by virtue of union occupation. but he said those who have been carried away, he wrote, i hope are free and happy. and he wished them well. okay. my notes say strong close. why was lee the most influential person in 1862?
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well, he drafted the draft law, which was one of the most consequential pieces of legislation i think ever enacted on this continent, and significantly created an internal revolution within the confederate states of america. he was influential because of his commitment to the offensive defense and the destruction of an enemy, and his belief that he would have to fight a climatic battle of annihilation sooner rather than later and jefferson davis could not stand in the way and lee worked to make sure he did not by cajoling davis. he saved richmond, "monitor" armada on may 15th and then he came to command on june 1st. this person who had commanded
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maybe 200 troops all of a sudden commands 92,000, fought for seven days second manassas, or second bull run, sharpsburg/antietam, and then fredericksburg. i think he saved the confederacy. he transformed war and warfare. without robert e. lee, factor him out of the equation, and the war was over in the summer of 1862. despite all of his best efforts, mcclellan would have captured richmond. and i think lee was an effective emancipator. about lee's personality and personhood, i close with stuff
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that somebody will get. lee once wrote his daughter that i am always wanting something, i am always missing something, which is certainly true. robert lee sought something indeed. i'm always wanting something, he decreed, but he tried really hard like the rolling stones' bard and found you get what you need. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> okay. ladies and gentlemen, we're passing out the ballots now. and emery's going to take a couple of questions. while he does that, if you can record your vote, then at the end of his questions, we'll take a quick break and turn in your ballots as you walk out the door. this is going to be a quick break for us to count the ballots, and then you can come
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back in to hear the results. thank you. >> are there questions? let's see. wherever robert e. lee is on the ballot, that's where you check. anybody need a pen or a pencil or anything? i've tried to stack the deck. i brought -- i brought my brother-in-law, judge tolliver. fran is back there with both hands at work. are there any questions? >> does anyone have any questions? i know voting has your attention. >> just check robert e. lee or vote for robert e. lee and then ask -- yes, sir?
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oh, you need a ballot. if you don't ask questions, i'm going to read more limericks. >> i think he's got whatever he needs. saved. >> i had a question. >> the line of reasoning that you introduced about lee being a great e mans parent because he freed the league, and i wonder what you think of the argument that he was an inadvertent emancipator with causing this great mound of victory over the summer and forces lincoln's hand into launching the emancipation proclamation. by doing that, could you also say lee is an inadvertent emancipator. >> exactly.
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great point. >> lincoln said that everything seemed to be going badly about the war and this was in june when he started going to the war office and asked for paper from the clerk and drafting something that the clerk wondered what he was drafting and lincoln said, everything seemed to be going badly and throughout that summer of '62 and he knew that he had to -- he had considerable pressure from that frederick douglas fellow and others to do something about race and african-americans and the potential of a biracial society, and that's at issue because in doing emancipation, lincoln abandons the notion of colonization. we're not going to send
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africans, african-americans to nicaragua. there are santa anistas down there and we're in trouble. we're not doing to send them anywhere. we'll accommodate them right here and they are going to be american citizens and civil rights and liberties. that does not come from a limited war and it's lee that provokes, the total war to prevent emancipation. thank you for pointing that out. >> we heard from an earlier speaker that douglas wondered who his father might have been. what is your opinion on lee's search after the war and a reconciliation with his relationship with his father? did he have any questions in terms about --
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>> what was it that lee had done? >> great question. i think to some degree lee's whole life, and i've written about this, is a search for his father and lee is still trying to figure that out. it's interesting, because his father left home when he was -- what? 6? he died when lee was 12 or 13 and he left home because he was one step ahead of his creditors. he was genuine, a light cavalry commander of distinction. he'd been -- he'd served in the united states house of peace about george washington. he revered washington. he made lee, the family into
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federalists, later wigs. lee never knew his father, really, and always tried to figure his father out and even after the war, lee did a new introduction to his father's reminiscences of the revolution and lee repeated all of the old myths about all he moved to alexandria to further the education of his children. no. he moved to alexandria because he didn't know stratford anymore and he was trying to recoup his financial reverses and convince
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somebody else to invest in something silly. anyway, lee spent much of his life trying to figure out who his father was and in some ways never came at peace with that, and i think he finally figured out that he was going to have to figure out sort of not be his own father, but accommodate for the absence of a father just like he accommodated for the absence of many other things. yes, sir? >> he had another son called black horse lee. he inherited what was left of the plantation at the house and he was ordered to stay with friends because she had nowhere to go, but we don't hear much
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about black horse harry. >> we hear as much as we need to. black horse herring, you know, i took a father/son group from stratford because i thought people from the northwest ought to see a plantation and so when he took him to stratford, and i had to embarrass the guy and ask about black horse herring because if you're following stratford, what happened to it after light horse herring left, it became by his father's will the property of his son who was


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